Cheeseburger Gothic

I never got past the insect nookie in China Mieville

Posted October 29, 2014 into Books by John Birmingham

And now I don't have to because Tor has published this nifty guide to the scary man's fictional realms.

China Miéville’s presence looms over genre fiction. Over the course of a dozen books, Miéville has ranged freely across categories and classifications – epic and urban fantasy, social and hard science fiction, crime, horror and more. And in each case, he addresses, dances with, pokes at and, ultimately, departs from, the traditions and expectations therein. Although many thousands of words have been written trying to put Miéville’s work into neat buckets (“New Weird!” “Fantastika!” “Literary Speculation!” “Hauntological Slipstream!” “Tentacular Metafusion!”), time has proven that a China Miéville book is ultimately, well – Miévillian. The man is a category unto himself.

They've got hand little McNugget sized write ups of all his main novels, and they're almost enough to get me to read them. But I can't get past the insect nookie. I think it was in Perdido Street Station.

No pressure, but Perdido Street Station (2000) is probably the Single Best Fantasy Ever Written. And part of that is because it contains, as Whitman said, ‘multitudes’. A disgruntled scientist and his allies – including a de-winged hawkperson, rebellious, um, steampunk cyborgs?, a bug-headed artist, and a badger – all tackle one of the great mysteries of the universe. Also, a shamelessly corrupt government. And nightmarish dream-eating insects. Also contains: adorably traditional adventuring parties, robot mobsters, the Ambassador of Hell, swashbuckling mantis-armed bandits, shapeless horrors, and Devices That Tamper With the Stuff of Reality. All set in the bizarre and ceaselessly tantalising metropolis of New Crobuzon.

Thematically, Perdido is just as ambitious, with discussions of free will and agency and the rule of law and rebellion and causality and governance and and and and… you name it, and you can find it in here. If you want the One Book to Bring Them All And in The (Oversized) Paperback Bind Them, this is the one.

24 Responses to ‘I never got past the insect nookie in China Mieville’

Barnesm mutters...

Posted October 29, 2014
yeah I've tried with a couple of his novels and it just seems pointless to me though Tentacular Metafusion is my new favourite genre catagory.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted October 29, 2014
It's all the tentacles which put a fellow off.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted October 30, 2014
Drax: You! Man who has lain with an Askervarian.

Peter: It was one time, man.


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Spanner asserts...

Posted October 29, 2014
You had me at tentacles.

I'm not a pervert! Stop looking at me like that.

Don't judge me. I'm normal. It's you lot that are the sickos.

Darth Greybeard swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 29, 2014
Not only tentacles you evil Wrench. I posted a revealing photo of you on twitter last night. With your "friend".

Bunyip would have you know...

Posted October 29, 2014
Ooh. Does Spanner's "friend", have a "sibling"? Asking for a, um... close relative.

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Surtac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 29, 2014


I had no problems with the insect nookie per se, but some of the other imagery was disturbing as I recall.

I found that by the time I'd got through the first 200 pages he'd done most of the world-building and the story could properly start, which I seem to recall it did at that point. And of course the worldbuilding he did in Perdido Street Station was re-used in The Scar and in The Iron Council.

I'm on record elsewhere as being a bit of a fan of his work. I've generally liked most of his books. I thought The City and the City thoroughly deserved its' Hugo Award, and King Rat and Kraken are two of the best examples of London phantasmagoria I've yet read.

But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted October 29, 2014
Insect Nookie was the name of my punk rock band back in the early 1980's.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted October 29, 2014
And we mourn its passing onto the endless dinner-theatre tour.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted October 29, 2014
Dinner-theatre can be dispiriting. The last time Insect Nookie played I was walking through the venue during a break and someone asked me if I could give them my autograph and get them some more butter.

NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted October 29, 2014
Would it have killed you? Geeze

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted October 30, 2014
I told Buzz-Kill, the band's bassoon player, to get that lady some more butter. He lives to serve.

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trib swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 29, 2014
Go back and read Perdido. Really.

However, if you can't deal with bug sex, go with WTF Central Europe in The City and The City. Just super good. And no bugs.

damian puts forth...

Posted October 29, 2014
Second this. There's so much in Perdido and the others in the series. The City and the City is just amazing, too. But I only got into Mieville after reading about how he got into a fight with Eric S. Raymond.

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Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted October 29, 2014
City and the City was fucking amazing. When I groked what was going on I thought to myself "you clever evil clever smart talented bastard".

damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 29, 2014
+1

dweeze puts forth...

Posted October 30, 2014
++1
I also still retain a great fondness for The Scar. However, I've pretty much given up on CM because I cant be arsed any more.reading half a book just to set up a world.
Paulo Bacigalupi(?) FTW...

Surtac ducks in to say...

Posted October 30, 2014


Nah. Bacigalupi was just ripping off Ian McDonald as far as I could tell, and not doing it anywhere near as well.

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Murphy_of_Missouri swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 29, 2014
Animated snot balls did it for me.

Frankly, I found him to be pretty exasperating to read. Pretty much everything inspired by E. P. Thompson. If I want to read Thompson, I'll read Thompson, not China.

Him and KSR are two writers I do not waste my time on anymore.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted October 30, 2014
Actually, the progenitor of bug sex is the immortal Jack Vance in his short novel the Last Castile (one of my perennial favs). Although Vance did not describe any bug sex, the insect-women "Phanes" were clearly sexually available to the men and women of that decadent society.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted October 30, 2014
Castle, not Castile. Very different.

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TheWah mumbles...

Posted October 30, 2014
I adore Perdido Street Station. Borrowed it from the library when it was first released. Mieville casually throws down wonderful concepts in this novel that other writers would have spent a full novel fleshing out. The city of New Crobuzon felt richer and more mysterious because of this. Though we were following the main characters the world didn't revolve around them and a multitude of wonders were hidden down each dirty alley way. I ended up buying a collecter's edition of Perdido and it sits on my bookshelf proudly next to my Ian M Banks Culture novels.

The sequel novel, The Scar, was also good, but I wasn't so moved by Iron Council which was also set in Bas Lag. I have friends who argue with me about Iron Council. They tell me its the superior book to Perdido Street Station... they are wrong.

Once someone explained New Crobuzon as Terry Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork but without the comedy. I can see where they are coming from.

damian has opinions thus...

Posted October 31, 2014
It's more like what you'd get if the elements in Ankh-Morpork were actually present in 19th century London. Though the better way to see this is as referring to the same trope of convention or tradition about a mystical city that Pratchett is referring to. Fritz Leiber's stuff comes to mind.

Incidentally, if the insect sex freaks you out, the Leiber story where Fafhrd is screwing a female ghoul doesn't?The ghoul is depicted as a humanoid with invisible soft tissue, so that normally if they are naked, the bones and only the bones are visible. However when sexually aroused the lips, breasts and genitals become pink... Then there's the story where Fafhrd and the grey mouser both impregnate ice princesses...

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